The root of 3

The Stately Lily of the Nile or Arum lily, Zantedeschia aethiopica, luxuriates in the wild in the swamps and lake margins of southern and eastern Africa. But it is far more adaptable and hardy than is often imagined, making an excellent contrast to ferns in a moist shady border.

A thoroughly regal plant, it carries itself with great dignity and bearing and, though best known for its flowers, it makes a foliage plant as dramatic as the Hostas (and less prone to slug damage). It has large unbroken, arrow-shaped, wavy-edged leaves which reach well over a foot long and have a fine, curling point. They are glossy, dark-green and held on clumps of strong, fleshy stems 3ft high. The flowers that rise above this foilage in summer are elegant, striking and strange. A central, finger-like, creamy- yellow spike surrounded by a smooth, creamy-white cloak that fades imperceptibly to green where it meets the flower stem.

The Arum's favoured home is the boggy water's edge. But how many of us have a lake in our gardens? Fortunately, they are also happy in moist and well-fed borders, in pots or submerged in the pond. They like sun or light shade. In the mildest gardens, their handsome foliage remains evergreen, otherwise they disappear below ground in winter. Cover the crowns well with a thick mulch to keep out frost.

The Ostrich feather or Shuttlecock fern, Matteuccia struthiopteris, is completely hardy. It likes moisture, light shade and rich soil and has an elegance to match that of the Arum lily. The difference in foliage could not be greater, its finely divided, light-green fronds a marked contrast to the solid, dark green Arum leaves. True to its name, this fern arranges its fronds in the form of a shuttlecock. In the centre of the circle it produces a yearly crop of brown, felty, seed-bearing fronds slightly shorter than the surrounding foliage. In summer, they are not very obvious but as the encircling fronds die away at the year end, they are left to stand alone through the winter.

Finally, at ground level, plant the very ordinary Dead nettle, Lamium maculatum f. album, to interweave with its companions. Its leaves have silver-white variegations and it bears small, lipped, pure white flowers. Its carpet-forming vigour is its virtue and its vice, so every now and then you may have to keep its spread in check.

John the Gardener

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

    £18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This design and print company a...

    Recruitment Genius: Lift and Elevator Contract Manager - London

    £38000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has ari...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Engineer - OTE £40,000

    £25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Engineer is required to...

    Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator - Hull - £32,000

    £30000 - £32000 per annum + £4200 car allowance: Ashdown Group: 3rd Line Suppo...

    Day In a Page

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence